Could Playing in the Dirt Poison Your Kids?

A study published recently in the journal Environmental Science and Technology confirmed that contaminated soil is to blame for increased blood lead levels in children during the summer. The research, which tracked more than 367,000 children in Detroit over a nine-year period, found that seasonal fluctuations in blood lead levels found in children are the result of resuspended dust contaminated with lead.

Lead exposure is considered to be the number one environmental threat to American children. Research has shown that even at levels that do not cause immediate symptoms, lead poisoning can cause permanent brain damage.

While children’s exposure to lead has declined since lead was eliminated from gas, paint, water pipes and the solder on canned goods, scientists have noted a seasonal rise in blood-lead levels among urban kids, reports Brita Belli for E Magazine. The purpose of the recent study was to figure out why children displayed higher blood lead levels in the summer versus winter.

“What we have done is demonstrate that increased blood lead levels in the summer are connected to increased amounts of soil and dust contaminated with lead,” said lead researcher Shawn P. McElmurry, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering in Wayne State University. “This soil is resuspended into the air to a greater extent during the summer than during the winter, hence showing decreased lead levels in children during the winter months.”

Kids in urban areas often play near roadways, vacant lots, and buildings where soil is more likely to be contaminated by past deposits of gasoline, outdated plumbing and toxic pesticides, putting them at greater risk of exposure. In the summer, soil is dry, making it easier for contaminated particles to be kicked up as dust by the wind. Then, increased humidity levels help to suspend these particles in the air, where they are inhaled.

“In Detroit, a city with some of the highest blood-lead levels in kids, a study in the American Journal of Public Health found a direct correlation between lead levels in kids and poor academic performance, writes Belli. “Children with 2-5 micrograms per deciliter of lead in their blood had a 33 percent greater likelihood of poor academic performance. Those lead levels are equal or below those set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.”

The discovery that soil (aka dirt and dust) is poisoning our kids is bad news, especially in urban areas that have elected to turn vacant lots and road-facing lawns into community gardens. ”In places where the soil is heavily contaminated, urban food production may raise as many public health concerns as it solves,” said Samantha Langley-Turbaugh, a soil scientist at the University of Southern Maine in Portland, told Unfortunately, few studies have examined the quantity of lead-contaminated produce a person would need to eat in order to raise levels of lead in the blood.


Related Reading:

There’s Still Lead In Lipstick – Does The FDA Care?

Chemical Industry to Parents: Avoid Lead, Tail Pipes and Choking

Are America’s Kids Drinking Arsenic and Lead In Fruit Juice?


Image via Thinkstock


Oleg Kobetz
Oleg Kobetz3 years ago

Thank you.

Oleg Kobetz
Oleg Kobetz3 years ago

Thank you.

Sarah Hill
Sarah Hill4 years ago

You are right Billie C

Fred Hoekstra
Fred H4 years ago

Thank you Beth, for Sharing this!

Darrel Edwards
Darrel Edwards4 years ago

Children need to play and get dirty, isn't that what half the fun is ? How do we know soil is safe....think about where you live and where your children play........then let them be kids again...

Freyja Ivorie Miguel
Freyja Ivorie M4 years ago

but kids are always at home they need to be exposed to the outside world more... :/

Ram Reddy
Ram Reddy4 years ago

Thanks for sharing

Christine W.
Christine W4 years ago

Thanks for sharing.

Alex H.
Alex H4 years ago

So that's what the world has come to!No more playing with mud pies in the garden?!Sadly,the soils in which food is grown are now poisoned with heavy metals,pesticides,fertilisers and this is also a great threat to health,when this food is eaten! The seas are also polluted with similar toxins,mercury etc and guess what is now in the fish?!The chemical corporations are fairly and squarely to blame for the continuing destruction of our planet and ultimately us and every other living thing.Do the people running these horror companies have families?!Don't they care about their future?!Have a hair analysis test and you will be shocked at what is hiding in your system!

Patricia H.
Patricia H.4 years ago

very informative